The design cliché-skewering Tumblr Fuck Your Noguchi Coffee Table has existed for a little over a month and already has thousands of followers. It targets everything from the very tired (please god no more “Keep Calm and Carry On” variations) to the close-to-home (did each one of us really think we were the only ones to covet an old card catalog?), and every post hits the nail on its vintage, forced-whimsy head.
My friends have terrariums and chalkboard paint and Arco floor lamps. I own a topographic map of Brooklyn and a framed drawing of animals in human clothing. I think I know more people who have their bookcases arranged in rainbow order than don’t. I’m in my 30s, I live in a major metropolitan area, and my personal taste isn’t quite as personal as I used to think.
Several months ago I signed up for Fab.com’s daily deal emails. After two weeks, I realized my passion for old globes was not unique — was I possibly passé? Vintage maps are the new bird silhouettes. Bird silhouettes were the new trucker hats. Etsy and the internet have sped up the half-life of all our trends and fads to the point that they’re everywhere before we even realize we’re into them.
It’s inevitable that all the homes on Apartment Therapy start to look alike; every design trend that gets popular also gets dated. It’s like visiting a doctor’s office waiting room that was clearly decorated in ’80s mauve and powder blue, or ’90s burgundy and hunter green. The gold veined marble counter in your grandparents’ bathroom, or the dark wood paneling and decorative geese in your childhood best friend’s kitchen.
But what happens when the trend is for faux-personalized whimsical collections? Or when everyone wants their house to look like they’re world-traveling, eccentric millionaire from the ’40s? (Or, as one of my favorite Twitter users, Millie De Chirico recently said: “The Restoration Hardware catalog = going over to the home of Howard Hughes, if he were a giant robot & married to a gay solider from WWII.”)
I guess our generation’s design motif will be not-unfairly stereotyped by our passion for typography and leafless trees, just like our parents’ is often summed up with disco colors or shag carpet. But hey, if typography and leafless trees are your thing, what a wonderful time for you to be alive and living indoors!
Writer Danielle Henderson raises the point that the reasons our grandparents’ houses looked so cool and lived-in is because they were just that. She writes:
Don’t aim for anything — collect meaningful stuff.
This is my problem with this sort of decor — everyone is in a rush to cultivate a design personality instead of developing one. The cool shit in our grandparents’ house? It’s there because they bought it in 1945 and never threw it away. These apartments and Dwell spreads always look cold, mainly because there’s no personality, no life, no anima (what’s up Grosse Pointe). Buying an old sewing box to hold your decorative arrows because you saw it in a magazine and it looked cool isn’t as exciting to me as someone who went to a local furniture store and picked out some plain old wooden box they liked. Rooms like the one pictured above say nothing to me about the owner’s style or interests — it only tells me that they read Apartment Therapy and have an eBay account.
Our grandparents’ homes had soul. We don’t have soul — we have blueprints for style, and it feels empty.
“Curated” is a huge design buzzword currently. No one just picks something they like anymore; they curate it. Frankly, curating your home sounds a bit more stuffy than an actual labor of love, but the real nugget is that “curate” also invokes the slow, drawn-out, almost museum-like process of acquiring just the right item, not buying the entire set complete and insta-ready on Etsy or Fab. That might look nice in a photo, but where’s the fun in that?
But fuck YOU, we might say: we really like old maps and globes! We liked them long before they were de rigueur in every spread in Dwell. That’s fine then; we’ll just keep liking them. We’ll freeze everyone else out, wait for them to move on to the next thing (which I hope to god is serial killer chic, all ornamental bowls of toenail clippings and walls covered in unsettling newspaper clippings) and we’ll keep our old maps and globes long enough that our grandchildren associate them solely with our living rooms. But some of our neighbors’ grandkids will do the same. It’ll be A Thing.
…Which will be okay with us, because we genuinely loved them in the first place.